TOLKIEN’S RING CYCLE FAREWELL HAS BILBO BOUND FOR A BOOK
It is the poem that signals the end of JRR Tolkien’s association with his greatest creation, the mythical land of Middle Earth.
Now Bilbo’s Last Song, a short poem marking the end of the famous Hobbit’s adventures, is to be published to cash in on the new wave of interest in Lord of the Rings.
The poem, illustrated by Pauline Baynes -who is also known for illustrating the Narnia Chronicles of CS Lewis – is best known for having adorned the walls of Tolkien fans in the form of a poster in the 1970’s.
Now, following the commercial and critical success of Peter Jackson’s Oscar winning film of the Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in Tolkien’s trilogy, it is being republished in book form.
Baynes, 80, was the only illustrator that Tolkien approved of, and it was she who adorned the poster version in 1974, which was published a year after he died.
The poem was given as a gift to Joy Hill, one of Tolkien’s assistants.
Baynes, who became a close friend of JRR Tolkien, spoke yesterday of her delight at the poem’s re-emergence accompanoied by pictures she created in 1990.
She said Tolkien had not only written it as a valediction for Middle Earth, but also his own life. “With this poem, I think he was sighing with relief: that’s done. He was getting pretty old when he wrote it in the late 1960’s, and so it is climactic in two ways. The poem is like a full stop, siganlling the end of it all,” she said.
Bilbo’s Last Song is onlt three verses long, and represents the last song Bilbo Baggins, the hero of The Hobbit and uncle to Frodo in Lord of the Rings, sings before he sails west and leaves Middle Earth. In Tolkien’s world, at the end of Lord of the Rings, the remaining elves and other friends sail west and leave the realms of the mortal world forever, and pass into myth. It ends: “Farewell to Middle Earth at last: I see the star above your mast.”
Bilbo’s Last Song was a gift from Tolkien to Ms Hill, who was seconded from Allen and Unwin, the author’s publisher, to help him with correspondence.
He used to joke that if ever a diamond bracelet fell out of an envelope it would be hers. When she was helping him pack up before he moved house, Bilbo’s Last Song fell out of a book and she loved it so much he said it could be her ‘diamond bracelet’.